It’s not just office layouts that are getting a tech-influenced makeover. So is the furniture.
Observers in the office furniture industry say that designers today are aware that office workers require technology, mobility and flexibility to be productive and comfortable.
Trends include adjustable sit-or-stand furniture, open spaces with furniture equipped for Wi-Fi access, colors and lighting that help set the mood, a kitchen with an island to encourage communication and brainstorming, and diverse work areas to get people moving around the office.
“Furniture engineers and designers are interested in technological trends, and they are dedicated to working in a more open plan. The walls or partitions are coming down, a person’s work area is going smaller. You have the height adjustability on tables and chairs to support better movement throughout the day,” said Juan Vidal, principal and managing director of Offix Systems in Allentown.
According to Vidal, there is a lot of talk about “sitting being the new smoking” and studies have linked health issues with sitting for too long.
As a result, there is a greater push for mobility in office seating, moveable chair arms and monitors, lighting that adjusts overhead with one’s seating, and the capability to connect data and voice to the adjustable seating. In general, new workspaces often have programmable options for better lighting and posture and they make it more comfortable for the employee.
“Adjustable chairs are ergonomically adequate for one’s height, better for your posture, your back, and lubricates the joints,” Vidal said. “The world has become very mobile.”
Vidal also noted that companies are starting to embrace open areas for lounging and high tables for employees to relax and communicate.
Conference rooms have also gone through some updates in recent years. Commercial clients are becoming interested in big benches and hub tables, which conceal power cords and chargers. With a hub table, people are not bending under their desk to fix a tangle of cords on the floor.
In addition, the office furniture dealer said that the evolution of technology has reduced the importance of walls and partitions. He said he believes it is because the noise level is lower due to the changing way people communicate. Employees are seldom taking phone calls but more often emailing, texting or using other digital platforms.
In Bethlehem, Codi Januszkiewicz, associate and interior designer of Corporate Environments, said sit-to-stand desks are increasingly in demand.
“Companies are realizing that healthy employees make happy employees, and are making the switch to offer employees this perfect ergonomic solution,” Januszkiewicz said.
She noted that a particularly popular system, LiveOS from Herman Miller, keeps track of when someone is sitting or standing, She describes it as like having “a fitbit for your desk.” And it has a sensor that can automatically raise your desk when you stand up and will remind an employee when it is time to stand and get his or her circulation going.
At Interior Workplace Solutions, David Torrence, vice president of sales, said he has a height-responsive chair that updates him when he needs to get his circulation going. He said that companies want environments with mobile chairs and tables, and high tables with technology installed in them.
Interior Workplace Solutions has been recommending that its customers establish diverse work areas. Offices should consider lounge areas that feature cushioned chairs, while places to plug in technology to run a laptop or to charge a phone are gaining popularity.